DAVID Cameron’s words on the raising of the terror threat level – that the British people face a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before” that could last “years and probably decades” – are chilling, all the more so because the public, who are as threatened as political figureheads, have only a sketchy understanding of why the probability of a terrorist outrage has now been assessed as “highly likely”.
The threat of murder and mayhem on our streets comes from the rise in Syria and Iraq of the murderous Islamic State (IS) group, whose wholesale executions of men, women and children for nothing more than failing to support their extreme and warped interpretation of Islam has made them virtually unparalleled in their brutal bloodlust.
It is known that more than 500 British Muslims have travelled to the Middle East war zone and that many, if not most, of them have joined IS and have been steeped in its ideology and the blood it has shed. Just as horrifyingly, about half of these are believed to have returned to Britain and, although one might hope some have been repulsed by what they have seen, it is likely that at least a few are intent on waging their bloody murder campaign on these shores.
Cynics may argue that there is another agenda here. Government and military heads from Nato countries are meeting in south Wales shortly; President Obama is canvassing for support for American air strikes; Mr Cameron is thought to want backing for the RAF to bomb the IS.
But this theory does not stand up to scrutiny. Terror threat levels are assessed independently of government by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. Its analysis may well have been informed by the intelligence that has come in from the intensive effort made by the security services to identify the British executioner of American journalist James Foley.
Moreover, while defeating IS in the Middle East would cut off access to its training camps and weapons by new recruits, that would not deal with the returnees nor with the possibility that it may spring up again in another part of the fractured Middle East.
Nor should Scots delude themselves that we are spectators only of this trouble, thinking we are on the periphery. One IS jihadist has been identified as being from Aberdeen and the al-Qaeda-inspired attack on Glasgow airport in 2007 should not be forgotten. Terror fuelled by zealotry is no respecter of boundaries.
Increased visibility and intensity of armed police patrols at vulnerable locations may be the most obvious sign of what the raised terror threat means and might do some real good. But preventing it from manifesting itself depends on unseen and diligent intelligence-gathering on likely perpetrators and intercepting IS acolytes as they attempt to enter the country. In this task, unspectacular prevention of outrages and maintenance of an uneasy calm is the best to hope for.
Airport drop-off charge
Wits used to say that an airport business these days was not so much about airlines paying to land and take off, but more about running shops and car parks with a runway an incidental extra. The joke, however, is wearing decidedly thin at Edinburgh airport.
The £1 charge to just use the road past the terminal to drop off and pick up passengers is to rise in effect to £3. Oh, we forgot. If you can get through the entry and exit points in under five minutes, the charge will still be £1. No, that’s definitely not all right. Given that it takes a minute to negotiate the roadway at the best of times when there are not other cars queuing for a stopping space, or pensioners negotiating the crosswalks, that’s only four minutes to throw people out or bundle them in.
This will make every airport departure and collection, already potentially quite an emotive or fraught time, just that little bit more pressured, through not wanting to spend the larger fee as well as the bubbling anger and resentment that there is a drop-off fee in the first place.
And since it is probably impossible to disgorge or collect elderly, infirm, or disabled passengers in that time, it is a penalty on anyone (including taxi drivers) who has the misfortune to be conveying people who are not perfectly fit and unable to step lively through the car park.
The airport is otherwise doing well. Flights and passenger numbers are on the increase. Income from that and the increased footfall through the shops (provided passengers can get through security in time) should be on the up. This does not look a necessary increase, and you have to think that it might not be worth the resentment.